From 8-9 January 2013 IGE hosted a group of professional women of faith to examine the intersection of business with peacebuilding and security formation. Over the two day period there were 23 people in attendance representing corporations, private business, nonprofit organizations, and U.S. government agencies.

The gathering began with an evening meal at Il Fornaio Restaurant in Reston Town Center, where initial introductions took place and participants were welcomed by meeting co-chairs, Julie Shimer, Former CEO of Welch Allyn in New York, and Emily Nielsen Jones, Founder and President of the Imago Dei Fund in Boston. After introductions and welcome, participants were briefed on IGE’s WFPS initiative, with a special introduction to one of IGE’s partners, Sirin Hamsho of Syria, who provided an update on women’s involvement amidst the conflict.

The following day added to the group size and included presentations by IGE’s good friends, Julie Shimer, Pauletta Otis, and Maryann Cusimano Love. Briefings served to introduce and present information on the following questions:

    Contextual briefing on Business (Julie Shimer): What is the unique role of women of faith in the corporate/business sector, and how might it be used to enable greater leadership for women, as they try and influence peace and security issues?
  • Contextual briefing on Security (Pauletta Otis): What has been and are the roles that women have played in the building and/or destruction of peace and security?
  • Contextual briefing on Female Face of Faith (Maryann Cusimano Love): What are the unique characteristics of women of faith and how they engage their world?

Participants came together in an open forum to brainstorm ideas concerning the following questions, for which the previous presentations provided the necessary context:

    How can the business/corporate sector advance women of faith to where they can have greater impact in peacebuilding and security formation?  (i.e., What kind of unique networks, resources, and expertise exist within the corporate sector that could be of aid to women of faith working toward peace and security?);
  • What does the business/corporate sector need in order to be “sold” on the importance of women of faith in peace and security? (e.g., benchmarks, bottom lines, scholarly research, etc.); and,
  • What are the most tangible, likely channels for the business/corporate sector to be interested/involved in this process?

Results of this discussion culminated in a concept paper. In summary, participants recognized the need to:

    Incorporate the business sector and potentially some of its models as core to IGE’s WFPS initiative, specifically focusing on IGE’s comparative advantage through WFPS, focusing on faithful women in conflict zones who seek practical means to peace and reconciliation, foremost among them, businesswomen;
  • Distinguish between that which feeds the womens’ movement, and that which feeds IGE’s unique comparative advantage, discerning the resulting audiences, messaging, and corresponding media; and,
  • Consider the need for a WFPS Center of Excellence facilitated through IGE, which would be a think-and-do mechanism for the intersection of these issues in relation to the business sector.

The meeting concluded with the following tangible action steps:

    Create a Facebook page to facilitate ongoing conversation and sharing of information between participants;
  1. Compose and distribute a concept paper that details the idea of a WFPS Center of Excellence, and gain feedback from the group;
  2. Seek input and buy-in from participants regarding their further involvement in a pilot project, and interest in a possible follow-on strategy meeting in April; and,
  3. Seek recommendations from current participants regarding new “members” to the group.